Digital Nomad Culture: The Hidden Dark Sides
The concept of the digital nomad lifestyle is inherently appealing. You get to travel the world, meet amazing people and eat some of the most exotic cuisines. If you’re lucky you can set your work hours and make the most of your leisure time. This is great because you’re gonna end up in some of the world’s greatest cities and most spectacular landscapes. It may sound like the perfect life and it can be for some. However, there are some downsides to a nomadic existence. This list will outline some of the cons often encountered by this contemporary lifestyle.
Maintaining Distant Relationships
As a nomad you’re going to travel the world and meet tonnes of new friends. You’ve probably left a lot of friends and family at home too. The most crucial thing a long-term traveller should understand is the need to maintain the most important connections.
Perhaps most important and sometimes overlooked by many are the relationships and family back home. You’re going to miss a lot of milestones and important events living abroad and moving about. The reality is that as a digital nomad you’re going to feel like an outsider.
What to do
One thing to remember is that others are busy with their own lives and concerns. It‘s you who have chosen this alternative lifestyle and therefore you’re the one responsible for the extra effort.
While it’s not the same as being in person chatting online is still a very easy and important relationship ritual. Remember important dates and set aside time in your life for others. Without regular contact you’re going to drift even further away.
Unless you maintain some kind of connection to your friends you run the risk of loneliness. It’s hard for a digital nomad though who’s always on the move and staring into a screen. Many nomads also say they miss sharing a physical space with real colleagues.
Feeling lonely is normal and shouldn’t necessarily be viewed as bad. What it means is that you have a need to be around people. It’s never easy to meet new people when you’re constantly on the move. Rest assured that others also feel the same.
What to do
Don’t underestimate the power of face-to-face interactions. Reach out to friends and fellow nomads but also try to meet others from the ‘regular’ world. You may feel as though you don’t fit in or they can’t understand you. The trick is to remove the focus of the differences in your lifestyles and find something you can relate to.
How to meet people as a digital nomad:
- Attend events at co-working spaces and cafes.
- Travel with a group of fellow nomads.
- Reach out to expats wherever you are.
- Search for a local group who share similar interests.
- Play sports and maintain your hobbies.
- Be brave and step outside your comfort zone to initiate conversation.
- Make an effort and maintain connections with new people you meet.
Lack of Routine
Life as a digital nomad can often feel like a holiday. When on holiday we usually adopt a more laissez-faire approach to life and do away with our restrictive routines. A lack of routine allows for spontaneity and freedom but it can also have negative effects.
Many of the health pitfalls that digital nomads face can often be attributed to a lack of routine. It may be difficult but it’s crucial to learn to maintain one. Without managing your time work becomes the default mode for life. Wasn’t this one of the main reasons for leaving behind a regular career?
What to do
A routine will allow you to plan ahead and focus on other important things. It will help you to eat better, clear your mind of clutter and maintain friendships. Here are some tips on managing your time and sticking to a routine.
- Keep a strict sleeping pattern
- Exercise regularly
- Prepare your own food
- Maintain regular working hours
- Set aside time for yourself every day
- Avoid excessive alcohol use
- Plan and prioritize your workload
No Sense of Belonging
Without a home you’re devoid of the usual responsibilities of a householder. This can be extremely liberating. Like so many other aspects of a transient lifestyle there is also a not-so-peachy flip side.
After traveling the world for a while a sense of placelessness can emerge in the psyche of a nomad. The constant upheaval and disconnection from those around you can be destructive to your mental health. If life becomes a collection of fleeting and disconnected moments it will quickly lose its value.
What to do
It’s important for this living a location independent lifestyle to eventually find a physical community. Online spaces are important but are far less fulfilling.One thing to remember is that being a digital nomad doesn’t mean you need to always be moving. If you’re really enjoying a place then stay for a while. Who knows, you may just be rewarded.
There’s a good chance you’re not going to meet anyone who decided to become a digital nomad because of the money. Cash flow uncertainty and lower rates are usually part of the deal. Not knowing when or how much your next paycheck will make it difficult to predict the future. This can become stressful and create anxiety.
The realities of freelance pay are as follows: forget about sick, holiday and employer contributions to your pension fund. Additionally, work can be irregular and pay rises are not something you can bank on. However, some remote digital workers hold fairly regular nine-to-five jobs or earn very decent incomes. If they’re lucky they can still enjoy a nomadic lifestyle without being tied down. Freelance work provides the freedom to pack up and leave it behind or maintain flexible schedules.
What to do
First of all don’t forget why you chose the electronic vagabond lifestyle. It has some positive aspects but also comes with sacrifices. Some tips on managing money as a digital nomad:
- Set some realistic savings goals
- Get rid of and avoid debt
- Track your expenses
- Find cheap accommodation
- Always search for the cheapest flight tickets
- Have more than one regular job/client
- Avoid constantly comparing yourself with others.
Overexposure to the World
The life of a traveller is far removed from the daily grind and full of amazing sights and experiences. Many digital nomads find that the more they see the less special everything becomes.
Some wanderers at this stage decide that the nomadic life is not for them. Others gravitate towards that constant novelty to provide a sense of happiness and fulfillment. An underappreciation of life in either situation will affect both your physical and mental health.
What to do
Constantly being exposed to new and widely different things can be tiring. It forces you to live life in such a conscious state that sometimes it’s just easier to tune out. Meeting regular travelers can help. They notice different things and are usually more energetic in their outlook.
If it is becoming harder to recognize the wonders in your world then consider it a sign. Maybe it’s time to stay still and dig a little deeper below the surface.
Life’s Ups and downs
The life of a nomad is full of ups, downs and a host of other challenges in between. With almost limitless options it can sometimes be hard to find happiness. Dissatisfaction with your job, relationship, society, politics and your inner-self can and still may occur.
What to do
Often nomads are tempted to deal with problems via drink or drugs. It’s somewhat more acceptable for this kind of lifestyle but the problems don’t get any better. These kind of people are not the kind you would usually want to spend a great deal of time with.
Another option is instead of dealing with a new challenge is to just pack up and move to another place. This is an easy and tempting option for most serious problems. However, running away from an uncomfortable situation rarely leads to a positive long-term outcome.
Living Life Through a Screen
Digital nomad life promises borderless travels and adventure while making friends all over the world. This is only a partial reality. Social disconnection and depression can creep up quickly.
When you choose to become a nomad you rid yourself of some responsibilities. Sooner or later though you will discover a new one you must take on. Without working on self-discipline, emotional strength and time management skills then a location-independent lifestyle will remain unsustainable.